Movie Review: ‘About My Father’ is a messy, limp rom-com with Robert De Niro as bait

If you had been to resurrect the drained storyline of a younger couple having to fulfill their companions’ dad and mom and had been trying round for somebody to play the gruff, disapproving future father-in-law, one title ought to positively not come out. Robert De Niro.

Yes, he’s hysterical as the extreme, no-nonsense, overprotective dad who’d make any suitor turned wide-eyed. Yes, he’s good at enjoying the position with the straightest of faces. We know that as a result of he’s achieved it to nice impact in “Meet the Parents.” Many occasions.

And but “About My Father” brings out this revered Oscar-winner for a sloppy reprise of that position in a constantly unfunny rom-com that you simply get the distinct feeling may not be in theaters in any respect if he didn’t lend his deadpan glower.

Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco has co-written and stars on this large sloppy Italian American kiss about household that not solely leans into stereotypes — working-class Italians on one facet, WASPs on the opposite — however plows the sector with them.

Maniscalco performs a Chicago lodge supervisor in love with a rustic club-raised artist (performed by the always-smiling Leslie Bibb) who each have a lesson to be taught concerning the push and pull of blood. “The family is not just one thing. It’s everything,” is the motto the Maniscalco clan reside by. It would have been a strong message in 1972.

Maniscalco’s adolescence was constructed on thrift because of his father, Salvo, performed by De Niro, a person who got here to Chicago from Sicily for a greater life and introduced with him a savage work ethic and a chip on his shoulder about wealth. He didn’t purchase his son a skateboard for Christmas, he made a janky one. Why does he love the Fourth of July? “It’s the only holiday you don’t have to buy a gift.”

On the opposite facet is the Collins clan, who got here to America on the Mayflower. Mom (Kim Cattrall) is a U.S. senator and pa (David Rasche) is CEO of an expensive lodge group. They reside in a gated compound in Maryland with peacocks wandering round. “You should see the house in Aspen,” mother says.

The plot activates a July 4th vacation assembly when the Maniscalco father and son go to the girlfriend’s household to suss one another out. Will Salvo be too good? Is he not making an attempt sufficient? Could he be making an attempt to sabotage his son’s happiness? Is his son pretending to be somebody’s he’s not? Can all this be solved with some pasta and parmesan? Marone!

The conflict of cultures is instantly robust, largely mocking the kombucha-drinking, monogrammed pajamas-wearing and tennis-playing WASPs. (There’s additionally a Grandma Moses artwork joke for these nonetheless awake. Grandma Moses jokes slay.) The Maniscalcos have their very own quirks, like spritzing cologne at each second. The filmmakers — Laura Terruso directs from a script by Maniscalco and Austen Earl — have the meatballs to border all this as an immigrant story.

For those that miss “Meet the Parents,” there’s even a scene just about lifted, as if relying on viewers being dim. The pool volleyball scene from the 2000 film — the place Ben Stiller will get too aggressive and painfully spikes on his girlfriend’s sister — has its equal when Maniscalco hits a tennis ball arduous into his girlfriend’s brother’s torso.

“About My Father” isn’t the one comedy vying to be the “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” of 2023. The 12 months began with Netflix’s “You People,” starring Jonah Hill and Eddie Murphy, and that film, nevertheless flawed, handled race. “About My Father,” is about white folks, and must be about class or privilege, nevertheless it’s not. It’s about embarrassment, denuding any potential depth.

Things sag after which get bizarre on the finish, as this rom-com turns right into a rom-com the place the goal is dad. There’s even a running-to-the-airport scene when the penny drops for Salvo’s son. But you’ll have discovered that this was a money seize lengthy earlier than that.

“About My Father,” a Lionsgate launch, is rated PG-13 for “for suggestive material, language and partial nudity.” Running time: 89 minutes. Half a star out of 4.


MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some materials could also be inappropriate for youngsters underneath 13.




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